Las Vegas – it’s America’s biggest playground and it’s a place where everyone is welcome. Age, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality, wealth, social background – none of them matter in Sin City. Vegas has a large and vibrant gay scene, and one that extends far beyond what is affectionately know as the fruit loop around East Naples Drive, near the University of Nevada.
If you’ve been to Vegas before, don’t be fooled into thinking you know all the best places. Bars, hotels and clubs are opening, closing and changing their names all the time. If you leave it for more than a couple of years between visits, it can feel like you’re entering a completely different city and you have to learn it all again from scratch.
Five years ago, for example, the Blue Moon resort was the first place on everyone’s list. But Vegas’s first and only specifically gay hotel and resort suddenly closed its doors in October 2014. There have been rumors of it reopening, but none of these have come to fruition as yet.
Here, we’ve taken a look not just around the fruit loop area but also up and down the strip to find some of the top LGBT nightspots in Glitter Gulch.
The exception that proves the rule in the constant swirl of Vegas change, the Piranha nightclub is one constant that has been around for years. The two-floor nightclub is chic, sophisticated and high-energy. The dance floor is always packed, but if you want something a little calmer, it is well worth splashing out on a VIP package.
That provides an opportunity to rub shoulders with the rich and famous, as the VIP area and skyboxes are a popular celebrity haunt. As well as offering an amazing view of the dance floor, you can enjoy a luxury patio, accessed through a walk-through aquarium full of – you guessed it – piranhas. Check out the weekend party package for four, which includes two bottles of New Amsterdam along with mixers in the $350 price.
Piranha is on Paradise Road just to the north of Tropicana Avenue and close to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
Sahara Hotel and Casino
Let’s face it, there’s never been a particularly strong correlation between casino gambling and gay culture. As a result you’re not going to find a “gay casino” as such in Las Vegas, but whether you go to Paris, Wynns or the MGM Grand, you’re guaranteed a warm welcome and a great night’s entertainment.
Having said that, no city on earth has as much choice as Vegas when it comes to gambling halls, so you can afford to be fussy. The Sahara on Las Vegas Boulevard gets singled out here for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a place with its own unique style. Across the board, casino fashion is changing from the archetypal formal wear of Monte Carlo, but the vibe at Sahara is one that really encourages you to express yourself, so make an effort and get dressed up for the night.
Secondly, though, once you’ve had enough of the blackjack, roulette and slots, there are few places better to catch a show. The Sahara has hosted some of the absolutely classic gay icons across the years. These include Liberace, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Liza Minelli, Barbara Streisand and Kenny Kerr.
Fancy something a little more casual? Quadz could be just the thing, with its retro, dive bar feel. The drinks are cheap, the chatter is friendly and it is one of those places that is as popular with locals as it is with visitors. In Vegas, that’s one of the highest accolades, so definitely pay the place a visit.
The focus here is on traditional bar games like pool, darts and good old fashioned arcade games. There’s a juke box with an eclectic mix so that you can choose your own soundtrack for the night. Quadz also has regular game nights, including Cowboy Bingo once a month and poker every Thursday evening.
Quadz is on Paradise Road, right opposite Piranha Nightclub, and is open 24/7.
The Luxor (Temptation Sunday)
If you’re visiting Las Vegas in the height of summer, a pool party makes all sorts of sense. The Luxor Hotel and Casino on The Strip hosts regular gay pool parties of a Sunday. The Luxor pyramid serves as the perfect backdrop for sun-kissed fun around the pool, and the party vibe is enhanced by Go-Go boys and the cheesiest of party music.
Temptation Sunday also hosts a range of top-notch DJs, so if you are in Vegas for a while, it is worth checking who is on when and planning your visit to The Luxor accordingly. If you want to really make it a party to remember, you could consider renting out a cabana for the occasion. These come equipped for four, and comfy chairs, soft drinks, towels and even a flat screen TV with sports package are all provided for you and your party.
The Temptation Sundays Seasons runs throughout the summer months from about May to September.
Situated on West Sahara Avenue, a short drive to the north west of The Strip, The Phoenix is a friendly cocktail bar that offers cheap drinks, good conversation and a great variety of special event nights.
On a run of the mill evening, there will be no-nonsense bar food, dancing and a choice of video games and traditional bar games to keep you amused. Time your visit right, though, and you could join the fun for an underwear party. Dare to bare and it’s all you can drink for a one-off $5 charge.
Phoenix is a bar that allows smoking even if you’re not playing casino games, so keep that in mind. For smokers, it’s like a step back in time to the good old days, but for others, it can come a bit of a culture shock. However, there’s a fabulous outdoor patio where you can take in the fresh desert air.